Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Santa Claus is real

Santa Claus is real because I say he’s real. Santa Claus is real because on Friday, December 23rd he was driving from Happy Valley to downtown Vancouver, WA to buy the only toy coffee maker in the greater Portland area. He had looked at Fred Meyer. He had searched Target. He had been to Toys ‘R Us, The Learning Palace, Walgreens. He had even shopped at the gates of Hell (Walmart at 1:00 in the morning). Santa finally wised up and called the greatest little toy store he knows, Kazoodles. They didn’t have a toy toaster, but the coffee maker was right there on the shelf. So Santa got in his 2001 Subaru Legacy sleighdan and headed north for the 25 minute drive. When he showed up at Kazoodles Santa found an empty building where Kazoodles used to be. “Is this Christmas?!?!?!?!!” Santa yelled. Santa then used his iPhone 4s to find out where Kazoodles is now located. It was 10 miles away on the east end of Vancouver. So, Santa got back in his car and started driving to the other side of Portland’s wonderful sister city to the north. He drove the length from I-5 to I-205 and then headed north yet again (because if there’s one thing Santa’s good at, it’s north) and he exited at Mill Plain. What Santa didn’t know was that Mill Plain is a very busy road at midday on the Friday before Christmas…turns out Santa doesn’t know EVERYTHING. After waiting through a number of green light/red light sequences Santa got to the front and realized that he could have used the left lane and been through in one signal. Seeing this, Santa went ahead and blew through the yellowish/orange/okay-RED light and headed down Mill Plain trying to follow the pseudo-GPS built into his iPhone. He was doing this because a thief smashed out his car window and stole Santa’s 2 GPS units a couple weeks ago while Santa was playing poker in NW Portland. In any case, Santa drove to the spot on the GPS and found a bunch of businesses but NO KAZOODLES! Santa jerked his sleigh into the empty parking lot of a church and stopped to let it leak oil all over the place while he again called Kazoodles. “Yes, Kazoodles? This is Santa. Where are you? I’m at the church. I’ve gone too far? Oh good, will you be on the left or right? The left? Great. I’ll see you in a Christmas jiffy!” Then Santa found he couldn’t turn left on Mill Plain so he did the only thing he could…he turned right. Soon Santa realized he was in Washington so he could make a U-turn. So Santa found a left hand turn signal…which, shockingly, had a “No U-turn” sign. So Santa took a left, then a left into a parking lot, then made a back and forth maneuver that would have made Austin Powers blush, bayyybeeeee, then came bac k out of the parking lot to make a right followed by another right and Santa was on his way. On his way to the strip mall where he eventually located Kazoodles. He entered the store, bent over and grabbed the ankles of his furry red suit and, as only a defeated magical giant elf can do, handed over his credit card to charge $22.95 for a couple pieces of moulded plastic that will inevitably lead his 5 year old daughter into a life of paying $4 each for cup upon cup of addictive hot liquids. Santa then hopped back into his dented green sleigh and got back on Mill Plain. Where in the name of St. Nick did all these cars come from? Santa used the left lane only to realize that the right lane was a ½ mile long line for the freeway that Santa needed to get home. Santa was stuck. He couldn’t squeeze into this line at this point, and quite frankly it was longer than Santa was willing to wait anyway. Santa said the F-word. Santa didn’t know Vancouver well enough to find an alternate route, but he was sure gonna try.
That’s when it happened. Santa’s sleigh found itself as the first car in the left lane at the red light before the freeway entrance. All Santa had to do was beat the thuggish looking gentleman to his right off the line and he would be free as a Christmas dove flying home on the interstate! The light turned green, Santa reved up all 4 cylinders of his sleighdan and found himself falling behind the car to his right. But like the peaceful bliss of a new fallen snow there beside him was a Christmas miracle. The second car in line was busy illegally talking on his cell phone which made him too stupid to realize that the light had turned green. Santa slid in behind Mr. Thug and found himself on that charmed and magical Christmas pathway, I-205.
So for those of you who don’t believe in magic…those of you who don’t believe in Santa Claus. Santa IS real. I saw his reflection in the eyes of a 5 year old girl on Christmas and he was shaped very much like a toy coffee maker.
NORAD Santa tracker: December 23rd from 11:30am - 2:00pm

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

The dark at the end of the tunnel

Coca-Cola has had a promotion going on now for a few years called My Coke Rewards. It’s actually an amazing promotion. Every time you buy a box or bottle of any Coke product you receive a code that you can enter on their website. Each code gives you a certain number of points which are then used as currency to purchase items from a wide assortment in their catalog. You’re probably thinking “oh, how neat…a way for you to get a crappy Diet Coke branded hat.” Well, you’re kind of right. You can get a crappy Diet Coke hat. You can also get an even crappier Fanta hat if you want. But you’re kind of wrong too because they have had some really amazing prizes available. In the past few years I have “purchased” a brand new pair of skis (which I sold on craigslist for $180), binoculars, a speaker for my mp3 player, a travel DVD player for use in the car, a yoga mat, gift cards to restaurants, and a few other things I can’t remember at the moment.
Well, the first thing I tried to get with my points was a Wii. It was the pie in the sky prize and it took a LOT of points to get it. I think it took 5600 points to get the Wii. Now you need to know that you get 10 points for a code from a 12 pack, 20 points from a 24 pack and 3 points from a lid to a bottle of any size. So if you’re going to get that Wii you need to have a plan…I had a plan. First and foremost I asked everyone I knew (including, at the time, my MySpace friends) to give me their codes. Most people didn’t think the promotion was worthwhile to pursue for themselves so I started getting codes from all over the place. It was fantastic, but I don’t know THAT many people so I needed other sources of codes. That’s when it hit me…why not check the local bottle/can returns at the grocery stores? It became a treasure hunt for Taela and me. We even started to make it a family outing to go looking for codes.
On one particular family outing we hit the local WinCo where I dropped Taela at the bottle return and stayed in the car with the kids. As I said…family outing. Taela came back with a few caps and box tops and I was pleased as punch. How pleased is punch? I have no idea. But as I was sitting in the car I felt a little rumbling in my tummy. We decided to press on to the next stop which was Fred Meyer. Freddy’s is awesome because their bottle return is at the outer reaches of the parking lot so homeless people use it constantly. Do you know what homeless people don’t have? That’s right…homes. Do you know what else they don’t have? That’s right…internet access. So what’s a homeless guy going to care about codes you redeem on the information super-highway?
So I’m driving the family down 82nd avenue toward Freddy’s…maybe a 5 minutes trip and about halfway there my stomach starts rolling over some more. I need to poop and I need to poop very very soon. “Taela, I have to take a dump.” Caleb laughs. Tenley laughs but only because she’s 2 and she does whatever her older brother does. I don’t laugh. We drive 30 seconds more and I start to struggle a little bit. I’m clenching down pretty hard and I’m able to force the urge back up there and stave off the inevitable for a merciful moment. I look at Taela and say “I’m going to park as close to the door as possible and I’m going to run into the store. You have the keys and the kids.” She thinks I’m being funny. I’m not laughing.
So I get into the left hand turn lane and wait for the signal. The pain starts coming back. I swear to God that traffic signal stayed red for about 12 minutes before we finally got the green. I think I yelled something at the signal itself along the lines of “why do you hate me!?!?!?!?!”. Finally the light turns green and I just floor it. I don’t remember if the tires squealed as I made my way into the lot but if they didn’t it was a miracle of modern science. I slammed into a parking spot near the door and damn near flew out of the car.
Decision #1: Run and risk losing lower body control or walk and lose time? I chose to walk briskly. I couldn’t remember exactly where the restroom was…as evidenced by my having parked at the entrance near apparel when the toilets are over by electronics. I never looked back at the kids or my wife, I just started walking toward the customer help desk trying to clear my mind, trying to remember where the bathroom was…singular focus…you can do this. As I neared the desk I remembered where I needed to go. I needed to get past the desk and over toward the other entrance. Fantastic…except…
Decision #2: Stop and clench down or make an all out sprint? I chose to stop and clench. This was a tough one. I must have squeezed every muscle in my body. Have you ever had to lift something that was so heavy you didn’t know if you could? Standing there I didn’t know if I could. I stood absolutely still and to the outside observer I probably looked as though I were seizing in some fashion. My toes were curled into cramped little balls in my shoes. My face was sweating. My fists were so tight that my fingers ached. And I was successful to the point that not even a turtle-head of poo slipped out. I had forced that urge back up once again but I knew I was running out of time. My body was going to explode and it was going to do it soon. I continued walking maybe 10 seconds longer and found myself under the “Restrooms” sign. You’ve got to be kidding me…
Decision #3: The hallway to the bathrooms was about 3 miles long…do I stop and clench again or just make a dash for it? At this point I was so close that I had to make the dash. It’s a scientifically proven fact, actually proved by Albert Einstein himself, that the nearer you are to the toilet the less ability you have to hold it. Porcelain is literally a crap magnet. When you see the light at the end of the tunnel your body goes into full expulsion mode. Why? I don’t know…ask God when you’re dead. So I start jogging down the hallway. I’m keeping control. Nothing coming out yet. I fart a little and it eases the pressure. I’m relieved. The end is in sight and I’ve held it all together thus far. I round the corner and find the men’s room. I’m literally praying to the Lord that there will be an empty stall. Stall #1 is occupied but #2 is open. I make a sprint to the open door…
Decision #4: Close the stall door or immediately drop my pants and risk someone seeing me take a crap? Now at this point I’m pretty confident I’ve made every correct decision. If this were a Choose Your Own Adventure book I’m thinking the best possible ending has me pooping in the toilet and I’m right there at the climax of the story. I’ve chosen wisely. Yoda would have been proud. I’ve used The Force and it’s led me to exactly the place I want to be. As I enter the stall I already have my belt undone and the top button on my shorts is also open. All I need to do is unzip, drop and relax the 1400 muscles that are now starting to cramp up. Remember that there is a guy crapping away in the stall next to me too so the choice is clear. I will close the stall door, latch it and then crap. This will cost me about 2 seconds of time and when was the last time that 2 seconds killed anyone?
Well, I don’t know when 2 seconds killed anyone, but I can tell you the last time 2 seconds caused a 30 year old guy to sh*t his pants. Decision #4 will haunt me forever…I latched that damn stall and frantically tried to pull my pants down, but as I started pulling my body simply couldn’t resist the magnetic pull of the bowl any longer. I felt the warmth start to spread as I desperately tried to wrangle those shorts down. It was as if time slowed. I could feel the release, the humiliation, the failure, I distinctly remember giving up. I had lost. Somehow, in a heroic last effort, I was able to stop the flow long enough to get my pants to my ankles and sit my bare, sticky cheeks down on the filthy seat beneath me. I was an indescribable mess but at the same time I had never felt so relieved. In that moment I was so relaxed it was like an out of body experience. It was ethereal bliss. There were simultaneous feelings of abject horror and zen-like nirvana. Unfortunately these bizarre contrasting feelings were fleeting and my nose reminded me that much of my body and clothes were covered in diarrhea.
I did what I could to clean up with toilet paper. I took off my boxers and after the guy in stall 1 left I hurried over and threw them in the garbage. I then grabbed some paper towels and wetted them and did what I could to, at the very least, not look like a guy who had just crapped himself. For those of you out there who don’t believe in God you should know that I just so happened to be wearing dark brown pants that day. If that’s not evidence of our creator I don’t know what is.
Finally it was time to make the walk of shame. I came down the hallway hanging my head. I carried myself a little differently, in part because I now had a shameful burden to carry with me and also because certain parts of me were now swinging freely as I walked…unencumbered by the now disposed of underpants. There at the end of the tunnel were Taela and the kids. The kids were laughing. Taela was smiling. “Did you make it?” she asked jokingly. “No.” She laughed. I didn’t laugh.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Well, we just got back from Disneyland. What an experience! But that’s not the part of the trip I’m going to tell you about. Be honest, you weren’t really looking forward to me telling you about which of the girls pretending to be Disney Princesses were the best looking anyway, were you? The most bloggable portion of the trip was the time we spent on the airplanes.

What I should say first and foremost is I’m cheap. I hate spending money I don’t have to. I’m famous for it in some circles. That said, my wife thinks I’m a frivolous spender which tells you something about her frugality. Having established all that you won’t be surprised to learn that we planned everything for our vacation on the cheap. How cheap? Well, I booked the flights on Spirit Airlines. What’s Spirit Airlines? It’s the airline that has absurdly low fares but then charges a fee for anything and everything you can think of. Oh…and which travel website did I use to book the flight? Cheap-o-air.com. Seriously.

This was our first experience with Spirit so we didn’t really know what to expect. We knew that we would have to pay for any checked baggage…and any carry-ons. Fortunately we were actually allowed one “personal item” for free. After much thought and debate I decided my personal item should be a change of underwear (in case the plane were to go down I didn’t want the news cameras to arrive to find me in soiled undies). Kidding. I was able to bring my laptop bag and Taela was able to bring a backpack that she referred to as her “purse”.

Next I had to call the airline to determine what it was going to cost to bring car seats and a stroller. I found the 800 number and dialed it. I got through to a lady with some kind of indeterminate accent. She asked for my “confirmation number”. Uh-oh. I was looking at the email from Cheap-O-Air and I gave her the “booking number”. Nope, wrong number. Ok…how about this one, the “reference number”. Nope. Crap. Then…silence… “Hello? Hello? Hello?” Nothing. Well, let’s hope the planes at Spirit are more reliable than the phone system.

I called back and got through to a man with a similarly mysterious accent. For no reason other than to make myself feel irrationally better I let him know that I had been cut off when I had called moments before. He either didn’t understand or didn’t care about that as he asked how he could help me. I said I had seen on the website there is a “nominal fee” for requesting particular seats on the plane. What would it cost to get all 4 of us sitting together? “Oh, sir, it is only $10 per ticket per flight.” Understand that we’re making a connection in Las Vegas on the way down and the way back. That’s 4 legs on this trip times 4 tickets times $10. That’s $160. We’ll pass on this one and assume that common sense will prevail when we board the flight. I mean they can’t possibly seat a 5 year old girl by herself, right? I rolled the dice and it worked out just fine.

Then I asked him if there was a fee for the stroller. “No there isn’t, you will have to leave it at the gate and it will fly for free.” How about the baby car seat that fits into the stroller? “If there is a baby for it then it too flies free.” Great! What about the booster seats for the other two kids? “Pardon me, sir?” You know, the booster seats. “Sir? I don’t understand.” You don’t know what a booster seat is? “No sir.” You know, the plastic seat a kid sits on in a car. If we rent one from the car rental place it’s $10/day and they only cost $18 brand new. Can we bring them as the kids’ personal item? “I don’t understand sir, please hold while I check on this information for you.” For the next 6 minutes I sat there and tried to think of a way to describe a booster seat to someone who has never seen or heard of a one. “I’m sorry sir, I cannot answer your question but here is the phone number for TSA.” TSA? “Yes, TSA, sir. The number is…” Well, at least the guy tried to help. I didn’t bother calling TSA since that would have been useless, but it turned out they checked the booster seats at the gate just like the stroller for no charge. Couple that with Taela’s family’s willingness to check our bags on their Southwest flight and this plan is set to save us $300!

Three hundred bucks…sounds worth it, doesn’t it? Well, the first flight was pretty routine. We had 4 seats in a row. The kids were excited for their first flight. It was great. Then we caught our connection in Vegas. Our seats were close but not right next to one another. I was able to get a lady to trade her seat so we sat two and two. We were in the same row but had the window and middle seat on either side. It appeared that nobody would sit in either aisle seat so we would be next to each other again but at the last minute a guy that must have weighed 350 lbs. sat down next to Taela. That was the last time I saw she and Tenley until we landed in LA. I think you’re still sitting over there and I miss you.

Then we went to Disneyland for five days. Yay!

For the trip home I got us back to the airport a little rushed for time. We were at the front of the check in line. Then a greasy looking guy with a gold chain tangled in his chest hair came up and stood beside us as if he were ahead of us. I used my shoulder to step in front of him and he moved uncomfortably close behind me. I looked at him and said “What are you doing?” He answer: “I’m on the 4:00 to Vegas”. “Me too.” After that I never remember seeing the guy again, but that’s the kind of class you get on Spirit. We made it through the security checkpoint quickly. We made our way to the dumpiest terminal gate I’ve ever seen. It was under construction and there were exhausted looking people everywhere. I couldn’t find an airline employee to save my life. When I finally found one I couldn’t tell if it was a man dressed like a woman or just an overweight, over made-up, over-shaped-eyebrow woman. There was no intercom so they just started shouting for us to board.

We were able to get 4 seats together again on this flight. Fantastic. We made our way on and quickly realized that this flight was damn near empty. There were probably 30 people on board flying from LA to Vegas. Of the 30 there were definitely 3 strippers. The lady sitting directly in front of Tenley was on the phone during boarding: “Yeah, it was busy last night. I gave 5 dances, but I’m not complaining about the money.” There was a young black woman in leopard print 6 inch heels. I don’t know if it was because of her lack of leverage balanced atop those stilts or just her lack of upper body strength but she was literally incapable of lifting her designer bag up into the overhead bin. Someone had to help her.

Just before take-off a flight attendant got on the intercom to address the 30 of us. “Is there an Allie Whozane onboard? Allie Whozane?” It took me 5 seconds to realize she was looking for “Ali Hussein”. Oh great. Ali Hussein went to the front and spoke with the pilot for a moment. Now every single person on the plane is trying not to let their inner racist out. The lady sitting in front of Taela turned around and started laughing about the look on my face. That would have been awkward except that we had already established that she was the lady who talks incessantly about nothing.

Some examples:
- She loves grape licorice. She bought it at CVS Family Foods…no, Ralph’s Supermarkets.
- She suggested to the stripper in front of Tenley that she go to a specific talent agency she highly recommended
- Her son is in the entertainment industry. He was the 8 year old kid in “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central When You’re Drinking Your Juice in the Hood.” He’s now 23.
- Also to the stripper in front of Tenley: "If you believe in yourself and your dream you'll go far." It's nice to know that Disney's "dream" message is permeating society at all levels. No, I promise you're not a walking cliche. Most strippers in LA and Vegas make the big time.

Well, Allie Whozane didn’t forcibly overtake the pilot and we landed just fine in Vegas once more. We had a nearly 4 hour layover and then crammed into the flight to Portland. I’m not a particularly tall guy…we’ll say I’m 5’10” which is, for all intents and purposes, true. My knees were smashed against the seat in front of me. How they fit us into this tiny little space I will never know. During boarding a man said to his wife “why is that overhead bin closed, is it full?” She didn’t know any more than he did and she told him so. I said “there’s a fee if you ask them to open it.” “Ha ha ha ha ha ha,” he laughed.

I kept nearly mercifully falling asleep and then something would inevitably wake me up. Between the lady behind me hacking and hacking as hard and loud as humanly possible, the person behind Taela who raised and lowered the screeching arm to their seat over and over, the two young black women in the row in front of us loudly rehashing their drunken trip to Vegas and my attempts to keep from cutting a huge fart all over the nice lady from San Diego I was seated next to I just couldn’t nod off for more than 30 seconds.
Would I recommend Spirit? I suppose it depends how much you value the money. The 5 of us including our 10 month old were able to fly round-trip from Portland to Los Angeles for less than $600. However I will also say I heard all of the following on our various flights:
“If you want to move forward to the empty seat with more room there is a $25 fee.”
“Next time I’m going back to Southwest.”
When I asked what on the drink cart was free the answer was “I can give you a cup of ice.” I accepted.
“What’s that smell?” At some point I just couldn’t hold it any longer. Sorry, nice lady from San Diego.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Happy Mallidays!

I love Christmas. I love the music. I love the festivities. I love telling people Merry Christmas. I actually love going to the mall at Christmas time. I love the energy and the decorations and even the litany of weird crap that somebody in marketing at some company thinks I’m going to be sucker enough to buy for my loved ones. During the rest of the year we only go the mall to give the kids somewhere to run around and get their energy out. Occasionally Taela and I will buy ourselves a Jamba Juice (me: Razzmatazz, her: Strawberry Surfrider or Aloha Pineapple), but typically we just walk around and let the kids play and we’re too cheap to buy anything. Christmas time is kind of a game changer. There are sales that make things at the mall worth the asking price.

Tell me this though, who of you out there are encouraging these foreign kiosk vendors by purchasing their overpriced, Made in China, fad items after they accost you? You’re walking along and having a nice conversation with your companion and “Ma’am, would you like to have soft, smooth skin?” Listen, Maurice…where I come from when a pretty man with a fauxhawk and a white v-neck tight enough so I can see every muscle and both nipples approaches your wife and tries to rub her hand he gets a dirty look and some very harsh words under my breath that you didn’t hear as I walked away and wished I had the cojones to say to your face! When did the mall turn into a foreign tourist market?
Last weekend, on Black Saturday if there is such a thing, Taela and I took the kids to the mall…for dinner. We ended up eating at Carl’s Jr. Well, actually Taela went to Charley’s Crappy Subs which by name alone should have been an indicator to move on to the next lousy food option. I was able to enjoy most of my delicious greasy burger until guilt overtook me and I gave what I had left to my lovely wife who could choke down no more of Charley’s contraption. Dear Charley: learn how to make a good sandwich and learn how to spell your name.

We actually did some shopping after dinner. I actually got 10 years younger by purchasing my first pair of American Eagle jeans. It was Taela’s suggestion and at 40% off everything in the store I had to take a shot. While I was admiring my new found youth in the fitting room mirror, Taela took all of the kids to the bathroom. After they came back I had my age-defying denim in a bag and we took a walk into Macy’s. It’s my favorite mall store. Why? I can get relatively nice clothes on super clearance. That’s really the only reason I like any store: moderate quality, low price.

Well, while we were in Macy’s little Micah had a diaper blowout. I suggested Taela take him to the restroom at the back of the store. She said she’s rather find a spot to change him in the stroller than use one of those community plastic boards where every slob puts their poopy kid. She didn’t say it like that, but I could sense her germophobia hanging out a little as she said it. So I suggested she still head back to the restrooms because there is a nice sitting area outside. You are probably thinking “that’s nice, a sitting area is a convenient accommodation.” In this case you’re right. Macy’s has a nice one. There is also a sitting area outside the restrooms in the food court. Whereas Macy’s sitting area is akin to “What a nice cushy seat to rest upon until my family has completed the expulsion of their waste” the food court’s sitting area is more like “oh my God, we’re so 16 years old and we should sit on each others laps and make out and see if anyone notices…I think I saw it on American Pie: Band Camp or something. Does anyone have a flute?” and “grunt…I’m 65 and live with my mother and sitting here watching these teens is so much better than buying dirty magazines at the Gas ‘n Sip.”

Anyway, I was left alone with the two older kids this time as I’m looking through shirts on the clearance rack (65% off!). I was doing my usual: let them run around and hide in and under store displays just enough so nobody says anything and not quite enough so that it disrupts other customers. Then Caleb came up and said “I have to go to the bathroom”. Me: “Didn’t you just go 10 minutes ago?” Caleb: “Yes, but now I have to go again.” Me: “Is it poop this time?” Caleb: “Uhh…”. So I start walking briskly to the back of the store…I’ve learned to walk briskly when taking kids to bathrooms.

We arrive at the sitting area and nobody is there. Taela must have been walking back to the men’s shirts…I hope she doesn’t have to wait/look for me for too long. Caleb says he can go in by himself, but I’m the son of a police officer and probation officer/presentence investigator…I need to make sure nobody’s in there first. So we all three walk in and sure enough some dude is in there doing his business in one of the sit down stalls. Instantly I’m thinking he’s enormous and hairy and he probably has a deep voice and a nickname they gave him in at the state pen so I usher Tenley into a corner that’s out of the way and I wait because my 7 year old son is not pooping alone with this fella.

Caleb heads into the unoccupied stall and starts doing what you do in the bathroom and then I hear it. Like the soft sound of a baby cooing. Must have been my imagination. I hear baby noises all the time since we have a baby, right? Then Tank, the guy in the adjacent stall, unlatches the stall door and shoves his way out of the stall toward the sink. Wait…that guy doesn’t look so tough. Wait…that guy doesn’t look like a guy. Wait…that’s my WIFE!

Taela: “What are you doing in here?!!?!?!?!?!!?” Me: “What are YOU doing in here?!?!??!!” Tenley: “Tee hee hee”. Caleb: “Plop”. Me: “This is the men’s room.” Taela: “No it’s not.” Me: “I’ll go check again.” I turn and start walking out the door and I hear Taela say “oh, there’s the urinal” and I see this blur go rushing past me that looks vaguely like my wife and my baby’s stroller.

I don’t know if there’s a moral here, but it might be that if you’re a woman the men’s room is good enough to do your business in but afterward you should go to the ladies room to wash your hands? Christmas is such a magical time.